Sunday, November 27, 2011

Intriguing...?

A short post today…

Can someone please explain to me why my opinion(s) on bringing up kids, that when I give it/them, (and just so we are on the same page here, I give it respectfully and calmly…)

Doesn’t seem as though it/they is/are valued?

Have put up a few points for discussion with a couple that I know and am very close too (and yes, this is only one example I know) and there pretty much is always a change in timbre of the voice and accompanying communication in return from both parents when I reply to something said to do with the children and how they are progressing with various challenges, and how one might intervene to modify this course slightly.

Why is this…?

Is it because I and my partner don’t have kids and thus we are deemed inappropriate in regards to opinions on child rearing?

That is my immediate thought and they say the first thing you usually think is probably correct.

And for my second piece of evidence, add to that my weird “bodylanguageOmeter” that I was born with which does let me down on occasion but I would argue is pretty bloody spot on for the most part, which usually picks the change quicker than the Bureau Of Meteorology can with their whizz-bang technology.

Hmmm…nothing I can unfortunately change but tis food for thought.

Clyde

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It just is

I am possibly the most annoying kind of childless woman because there’s little reason to judge me negatively or find argument with my choice. I’ve simply never experienced a biological urge to bear and raise a child.

I am not making a statement in protest about a planet bursting at the seams, I’m not infertile to the best of my knowledge, I’m not so engrossed in a career that I delayed having a baby and Mr Right did come along. While most women know deep down that they want to raise families, I possess the same kind of calm certainty that I will never be a mother.

Sometimes I forget that years of knowing my own truth can be difficult for others to understand and accept. The most hurtful jibe was being called selfish during a conversation with another woman at work. I asked her to elaborate and was told it was my responsibility as a woman to have children. I walked away from the argument when she couldn’t elaborate on the basis of this responsibility but several years later her words still sting. When we shared a ride home occasionally I admired how her two young sons and husband greeted her affectionately and I respected the loving environment created for her children; perhaps her uncompromising view towards other women could have been softened and it wasn’t every woman’s responsibility to reproduce, but every woman who reproduced had a responsibility to be as committed as she was.

More recently, visits to the doctor’s office to discuss my irregular periods have concluded with advice regarding the start of premature menopause. My fertility clock is slowing but my reproductive clock is still jammed; there are times I fear that the urge to have a baby will strike while knowing the likelihood lessens each month I ignore my increasingly erratic cycle. I ask myself doomsday-like questions such as how I might react if my reproductive clock finally started ticking or what would happen if my partner decides he wants to have a child and I don’t. I can sit smugly at the keyboard today and say, “I’m a pragmatic type and will deal with the situation if it changes,” yet I know from other women’s experiences that ambivalence towards motherhood can turn into snarling desperation in a short period of time.

A friend’s urge to reproduce hit after the age of 40 with such force that she was more surprised than anyone. She booked herself for pre-pregnancy health checks and hormone tests to prepare for a child that wasn’t part of her or her partner’s plans only months earlier. After three years of trying naturally before facing her own perimenopause, they opted not to proceed with fertility treatment. Now, at the age of 47 and with the opportunity to bear a child long gone, I sometimes wonder if she looks back at her decision with regret or acceptance.

I also wonder when I reach the same age how I will regard my decision not to reproduce. It’s impossible to look back on a past that hasn’t yet been lived so all I can do right now is be ready to face my own truth when the time comes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

“Fussy” women swelling the ranks of the barren

According to The Age, Mr Right is Not Worth the Wait. That’s right gals; your reason for living is to reproduce. Modern women are too fussy and should lower their standard. It’s better choice to shack up with a loser, at a younger age in order to pop out sprogs more easily. End of story. Women are always incapable of making the best choices for themselves.

If you talk to an IVF specialist, the majority of whom are men you will always get the same story. Women are delaying pregnancy too long and increasing their chances of being infertile. But you’ve also got to remember that these professionals reason for existing is solely to assist the barren breed. They only see women who are desperate and in some cases, remorseful about not being able to have children unassisted or at all.

But perhaps a sociologist would see the situation differently. Women may be becoming increasingly fussy about who they shack up with, for good reason. Marriage is traditionally an economic transaction. Women offer their ability to produce an heir for a man and in return they are fed and sheltered.

Things have changed significantly since the bad old days when women who “lived without the protection of a man” were branded as witches. With economic independence has come choice. Many women genuinely choose to save their pennies, over rushing into an unsuitable coupling. Is independence such a bad thing?

With independence also comes the choice to reproduce or not. While the IVF specialists see the ones who may have regrets over that choice, or who may have been ignorant about underlying fertility issues (the over prescribing of the contraceptive pill at the first signs of any menstrual irregularities often cheats women from making choices around common conditions like PCOS and endometriosis) there are more females not fronting up at the clinics and are quietly going uncounted.

Being fussy but happy is not a headline clincher. Some women in their late 30s/early 40s actually choose to be in an equal relationship, with someone they are genuinely compatible with, over becoming a mother. Our woeful divorce and de facto separation rates belie the consequences of settling for less in a partner. Instead of settling for less, perhaps women would be better off setting their standards higher in the first place?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Being childfree shouldn't be an issue…

Why then is it looked upon as being wrong by many in society?

Most people I meet whom I have chosen to share details with such as this go quiet and don’t say much. I would love to know their honest thoughts?

For those who do say something and there was one instance of that this past week gone where it was remarked that “you are still young enough to have children yet.” I just laugh and wonder what drives them to be so righteous regards procreation?

Is it a desire to pass on their bloodline, is it that it is just accepted to breed, are they lonely in their relationship and need another mouth around…I don’t get it?

My blood pressure rises slightly sometimes and I think about getting political and questioning their thoughts on population and our management of the planet thus far...but I don't.

But, on to our situation. I met my partner years ago, in our late 20’s to be more precise. We were meant for each other and to this day love and respect each other completely. As for not having children…well, that just sort of happened. There wasn’t any earnest discussion, we just woke up one day and one of us mentioned it and the other agreed…voila, the matter was settled.

The girly has pretty much always stated that she doesn’t feel maternal and I respect that decision completely. As for me, I could go either way, but having experienced life without children thus far I am pretty happy with the decision not to breed.

As for our families, well…both have been pretty quiet on the issue and no one has really dared to question our choice thus far but we have received our fair share of silent scorn for choosing not to breed and carry on the lineage. Especially from my side of the family although we live on opposite sides of the country so distance has been a wonderful cure to that ailment. One of my brothers has questioned the choice and stated that we might find ourselves lonely when we are old with no one to care for us. Fair point, but I don’t agree because there is no guarantee your children will actually give a stuff about you when you get old and crusty.

Life though has a funny way of serving you up the next course and for whatever reason we found ourselves with a fur-family instead. Let me take this opportunity now to make it clear that we didn’t choose one over the other…it just happened so very naturally.

First came a Siamese and Tonkinese cat, both of whom had our hearts the first night they were ours. Then came a snooty Burmese male cat and his little partner in crime another seal point Siamese. Unfortunately his desire to be wild was too much for us to keep close and he got out and was mauled by a stray dog. We still have his ashes on top of the wardrobe and have not as yet chosen to spread them somewhere but the day will come when we put him to rest finally upon the earth.

Next were Dachshunds, a boy and a girl both from the same litter who have equal love and scorn for each other. They are wonderful companions to be with in this life and yeah the house is a bit doggy smelling but the payoffs are worth it. Case in point, every day I come home from work they are there at the door jumping up and down happy to see me. That is a magnificent feeling and makes me happy instantly no matter what sort of day I have had. Then when the girly gets home we all rush out to the garage to meet her which also puts a smile on her face.

Has not having kids affected us in any way thus far? No. We still have bills to pay and mortgages to service just as anyone does so no, there isn’t any real change. I have taken to SPOILING my niece and nephew with presents on their birthdays and at Christmas in the hope that they come to understand the gift of giving. That and an occasional phone call to reinforce that we love them and will be there for them come rain, hail or shine is also the message I make sure to impart before hanging up.

My youngest brother is getting married in early 2012 and I would expect that they will be expecting children before the year is out as they have had their fun traveling etc, thus I will expect a phone call sooner or later.

The small act of giving and being an Uncle who cares makes me feel good and I look forward to conversation with either brother's children if they choose to question our choice later on down the track.

They will be answered honestly and given an answer that reflects the whole argument, not just parts of it. From there it will be up to them.

Clyde

p.s. Thanks to Another Outspoken Female for the invitation to write about something we think very important. Might drop another post on you IDC.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Reproduction: choice not censure

Excuse me for posting on behalf of the breeders, bear with me, I do have a point.

WOMEN who delay getting pregnant until after their late 30s are unfairly burdening their offspring with geriatric parents, a leading obstetric physician has said.

Barry Walters, of King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth, said women who planned to get pregnant after that age were ''selfish and self-centred''.

Quoted in today's The Age


Good to see it’s not just the barren copping a serve in the media for their selfishness. These days mothers, or at least the growing demographic of “older” ones, are also earning the moniker.

But Barry Walters is strangely silent on the selfishness of “geriatric” fathers. As a silvertail himself, he makes no mention as to the impact being a dad over the age of 36yo would have on the fragile lives of their offspring.

''The medical side is only part of it. It is selfish and self-centred of older women to have babies because they are not just babies - they are babies for a little while and they become people.

'They are starting out in life, having a family, working, getting mortgages and have to deal with geriatric parents. It's just not fair,'' he said.


Which seems very odd considering that women are still usually younger than the men who father their children. Given the amount of men, not just in their 40's but 50 and beyond, that are pushing the pram these days, the geriatric parenting demographic seems to have a higher percentage of testosterone than oestrogen.

Barry also seems oddly quiet about the increased risk of abnormalities including autism, bipolar disorder and even dwarfism in children fathered by men over the age of 40.

Barren or not, unless you conform to the outdated norm of dutifully popping out children at a young age (but not too young, I’m sure Barry has a thought or two on teenage mothers), women remain easy targets for the unquestioning media and old men like Barry. Reproduction is a choice. Whatever you decide.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

greetings to a recent visitor to deliberately barren land

To the Nigerian gentleman,

Who asked Google to,,,



"connect me to a barren lady for marriage".

You're barking up the wrong tree.

Respectfully,
AOF

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pup vs baby



"Pet Art" Fitzroy, Vic. September 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

olley, krasner: childfree artists



Three of my favourite artists have died of late, all of them in their 80's, painters, all, and each with their own sense of style. Living, as I do, in a house of art-interested people, we've been collectively mourning the loss first of Cy Twombly, then Lucian Freud and, late last week, of Margaret Olley, a woman who was, right to the end, still chugging back the cigarettes as though she'd never heard of lung cancer. Each was unique, but Olley was for me rather interesting being, of course, that still (though far less so, these days) rare beast: a woman who painted for a living. I used to see her out and about in Sydney when I was at art school and have long-admired her decision to choose career over kids in a time when it was, I suspect, far harder to make people understand that choice. She was always her own woman.

We pulled out Pollack on Saturday afternoon, arguably the best film about art ever made, one I've seen countless times but that still manages to throw up something new upon each sitting. This time, and with Olley's recent departure in mind, I was blown away by Marcia Gay Harden's portrayal of Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollack's wife who championed his work above her own, who made managing his career, hers. Harden's performance is excellent - Oscar-winningly so - but this time I noted just how well she plays someone for whom having children was simply not an option.

Two scenes worth noting: the despairing turn she makes on Ed Harris' masterly Pollack when, on seeing her work for the first time, he proclaims, "You're a damn good woman painter." The other is when Krasner has taken her alcoholic genius husband away from the drunken distractions of New York to the Hamptons where he is, at long (bloody) last, living up to the tag genius. Their lives are calm, things are looking up and in a moment of marital bliss Pollack announces he wants a child. Her response is heart-breaking, blows the film wide open, and I can only paraphrase, "You want to bring a child into THIS?" The "this" being, of course, his wild and often vicious genius, but there's more than that to Harden's performance, some unspoken business that makes the film so incredibly good - she chose not to be a mother because it would have got in the way of what she felt she needed to do.

There is no such chasm of choice these days, and women really can "have it all", but I like that Krasner, and Olley, made the choices that they did. I wonder how they felt about their decisions as they got older.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

birth, death, shame, compassion and comments

I awoke to an odd comment on another of my blogs. Early on a Sunday morning, someone in an outer Melbourne suburb had been visiting the site of a local blogger, clicked my non-de plume in his links and got redirected there. From there they chose just one title in the recent posts, an entry that consisted of just two sentences, and felt compelled to comment.

The two lines mentioned a Guardian article and my friend Lucy’s response to it on Deliberately Barren. The visitor did not read either piece, instead they vented their spleen, presumably driven by the title of the post Is child-free the new black?

Anonymous wrote
“Cecent (sic) people who have never had children - never truly know what it is to love somthing (sic) or someone more than life itself.

I feel sorry for all the barren, self centred types.”


Someone I don’t apparently know felt an overwhelming need to connect with me, to us, to tell us we are wrong, inadequate, lacking the ability to love and are driven by ego.

I stopped myself picking apart the inaccuracies in anonymous's comment (who am I to judge someone else’s equally as woeful spelling?) and remembered Brene Brown.

You see, last night I found some podcasts I’d downloaded 2 years ago and spent a couple of hours listening to the wonderful Dr Brown talk candidly about shame resilience. Did I feel that anonymous was trying to tap into some seam of shame within me, that I wanted to attack them (I keep wanting to write “her”, there is something feminine about this response) in return?

Brene Brown says many wise things about the difference between guilt and shame, and also empathy and compassion.

Taking a step aside from myself and anonymous for a moment, I’m a little overwhelmed by the judgments that are continually made about people who don’t have children. Regardless if this is through choice or circumstance. Over the last few days I’ve done my best to wade through the comments on Clem Bastow’s piece in The Age last week. But I find the volume and intensity of emotion somewhat alarming. To summarise the majority fall into two camps – those that negatively judge Clem with scorn or pity for saying she doesn’t want to have children and others who say 'ho-hum this topic is done to death, this article is so last century'.

But you see from anonymous being driven to comment on a mere headline, the issue of not having children is still relevant today. Why else would someone who doesn’t know me, or Lucy, feel compelled to name and shame the “barren” as being self-centered and incapable of experiencing love?

I want to sit and have a chat about those two points for a minute. No attack. No judgment. Just virtually toss them around with anonymous, without assigning a value. Is that possible?

Anonymous is alluding, I believe, to unconditional love. When I sat with my dying brother through his final weeks I believed I experienced this holy grail of love. There was nowhere else I wanted to be. My small business ceased to exist. I’d happily have moved to the end of the earth indefinitely (or at least the city he was dying in). To some extent all my needs evaporated. There were irrational thoughts of what I’d barter to save his life (for a while I considered giving up sex forever, yes unconditional love is tinged with an element of insanity). I’d eat and sleep occasionally but my life revolved around him. I could not think of any other time in my life I felt this way about my brother.

As messy, noisy and scary as death is, there’s such a privilege to sit with someone while they are dying. To be permitted, or welcomed, to be with them for their final breath.

Though this process was privileged and life changing, it was also utterly private. It’s not been something I’ve felt the need to share so publicly before. But when I meet people who find death scary, when people I’ve known have run from these experiences, I don’t judge them. I don’t believe there is weakness in that. Not everyone wants to witness the death of a stranger or a loved one. I feel compassion for their fear. I hope that in their life they become less afraid of death and dying. I don’t wish them to be shamed by their feelings around it.

At the times in my life when I desperately wanted a baby. And yes, desperate is the most appropriate word to describe the longing. It was all about having MY baby. A piece of ME. A person who’d ensure my immortality by ensuring my DNA, MY essence, perpetually through time. (Reading the words as they pour out, I’m struck by the fact that I have just written about fearing death. Coincidence?) Perhaps that proves anonymous’s point, that I am self-centred after all. Because I could dress the desire up in so many other clothes, but deep down, the essential ingredient in this yearning to reproduce was me. Perhaps my selfish craving was unique and that all the other men and women who become parents have never had an inkling of that desire.


The TED talk below has nothing to do with being child-free. It’s a thank you to anonymous, for helping me get in touch with my vulnerability. Enjoy.



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is motherhood the pinnacle of a woman's life?

The lovely Clem Bastow, Melbourne freelancer and hip chick about town, celebrates her 29th birthday today with an opinion piece in Fairfax about the plans she has for her uterus.


So many parents (particularly new ones) look with pity on those who are childless through cruel circumstance, and with scorn on those who remain so by choice.

Often I'm chastised, by those who have had children, about my "choice to remain single and childless". When I respond that it was likewise their choice to have a family, they fall mute or change the topic.

I refuse to subscribe to the idea that having a child is the pinnacle of a woman's existence. We're constantly told that people didn't know true love, or understand the meaning of existence, and so on, until they had a child.



Read the full article in today's Age.

Happy Birthday Clem!

Update 25.6.11

This article garnered a lot of varied responses, not the least from the comments on Fairfax. The hornet's nest was well and truly stirred. The following comment was not atypical of the majority of those who felt compelled to tell Clem what they thought of her.

Miss Bastow, you would be best to simply stay silent rather than use your words to spread your own negativity, weirdness and confusion. Too many young women (and men) have been encouraged to supress their natural inclinations by the likes of you to their regret latter.
William


A more thoughtful (and useful) ripple can be found in the local blogging community. I really valued Penni Russon's post on her blog Eglantine's Cake.

I wanted to say something here, about choices. About the many women I know who have chosen not to have children, and those of us who have chosen it. I wanted to say that choices pretend to be bipolar, especially in mainstream media, but they are actually nuanced, complex and as individualistic as the individuals who struggle with them.


And as a mother of three Penni continues, "Motherhood is nuanced too".

Parenthood is something other than the pinnacle of existence. But this is because existence is a continuum too. There's no pointy end. Motherhood doesn't have to negate ambition, creativity, professional success, sexual desire or individualism(as Clem Bastow comes dangerously close to implying). But neither does the desire to be childless negate a sense of family, community, love or selflessness and I support both Clem Bastow's choice and her need to write about it.


Beautiful post Penni.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Two billion minus one

No sneaky peaks, no dirty little secrets. Last night I did not watch the wedding of the century.


I admit there was a time when I thought I’d be tuning into the extravaganza on Friday night. The Chaser crew announced they were going to do an alternative commentary to the royal wedding on ABC2. It felt like we’d come of age as a colony and I looked forward to their irreverent wit ripping to shreds an outdated convention. But sadly it was not to be. It turns out we do not live in an enlightened age after all and an edict from on high, via the BBC, made it clear such insubordination would not be tolerated. Only reverential, non-ironic coverage of the event would be permitted.

Perhaps if Hans Christian Andersen had been born a Brit rather than a Dane, The Emperor's New Clothes would never have been published either. These days, while the House of Windsor can’t chop off the head of a commoner who has a different worldview, they can and will chop off their news feed.

However it’s not 1837 and strangely 174 years later, the Princess Myth is alive and well.

Back in the 70’s when I was a growing up, I hankered for hot pants not wedding dresses. At my first primary school disco I donned flared cords, not the frilly dresses of my peers. De facto couples were a new phenomena and rather than feeling bereft that this may mean I’d never walk down the aisle, I embraced it.

I don’t know what went wrong in the last 40 years. It had begun so well but in this new millennium we seem to be going backwards. Royalists are trumping republicans, new right wing political parties are emerging and marriage and babies for all are back on the agenda.

Weddings after all cannot be divorced from their primary function – welding two people together for the purpose of propagation. And that is exactly what two billion viewers world wide tuned in for, an archaic fertility ritual where they all but got to sit at the end of the bed to watch the carnal consummation.

In an age when “til death do us part” is the exception, with only 22% of Australian women being married at the time they die, marriage is disproportionally popular. The wedding industry flourishes, with magazines and party planners, feeding young girls dreams of The Dress, The Flowers, The Song and oddly The Church (in a time when congregations dwindle). In a way the groom is optional, as weddings are still all about the bride. It’s her big bang before morphing into another entity. Her last act as a single woman before she hands herself over to a greater force, that of wife and inevitably mother.

The hoop-la around gay marriage still hinges on the popular perception that the primary function of such a union is for a man and a woman to have children. As a man and a man or a woman and a woman cannot “naturally” reproduce, then they have no rights to the sanctity of marriage according to the opponents. It is children that the laws of marriage attempt to protect, both directly and indirectly; and it is that protection of children that justifies the recognition of marriage as a legal status.

This of course implies, not just homosexuals but also the barren (intentional or otherwise) have no right to holy matrimony. Personally find it hard to understand why anyone, gay or straight, wants to buy into the marriage myth. But if weddings ring your bell they should be for all, obviously.

At the handful of weddings I’ve attended more often than not I’m a “plus one”. I’ve witnessed the nuptials of more strangers than friend because like me so few in my tribe find the convention relevant. But this time, when yet another young woman I didn’t know was going to have her Princess moment, I declined the virtual invitation. For once in my life I decided to be minus one. But then again, why break the theme of a lifetime?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bambino joy



A nephew arrived in my life this January, a child long-awaited by his grandparents, one that's apparently turned my younger brother's whole life around. I can hear it in his voice when we speak. The very fact that we even speak the way we do this year is completely down to this tiny little person, and that, people, that is a miracle.

I met him at a lunch by the harbour in my home town, drinking posh tea from silver pots and sweet, old lady china, watching my parents very different reactions to their first, perhaps only, grandchild. Dad - proud, jolly, assured. Mum - standoffish and totally disinterested. Perhaps in mum's response there's an inkling of how the disinterest in small people of my own arose.

Did my own bodyclock start sounding an alarm in response to all this bambino joy?

Not at all. Not a sound. In fact, I felt incredibly light afterward, assured, yet again, that I made all the right choices.

The Guardian has a great little affirming piece well-worth a read this week, for the childless among us.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

when power is a cause for pity, not an aphrodisiac

Congratulations to Lara Giddings on taking over the reigns as Premier of Tasmania, the first woman in that state to get the top job. As a 23 y.o., Giddings was the youngest women to enter an Australian parliament. Now at 38, with almost 3 years as being Deputy Premier under her belt, ABC News Radio described her as a “career politician” in one of the earlier updates regarding her premiership. Though technically true, it seemed they were struggling with how they’d describe her without employing the usual sexist clich├ęs.

That didn’t last for long. The media pack barely listened as the newly announced Premier outlined serious policies. The question they all wanted to ask was "As a single woman taking on the role, do you, are you concerned perhaps you're giving up the potential to have a family? Is it compatible?"

How many times must Giddings, and all childfree women of fertile age, be asked this question? This certainly wasn’t the first. Under “Private Life” in her Wikipedia entry are two short sentences, “Giddings is not married. She has acknowledged that her political career may mean that she never has children.” (Quoting this unenlightened Hobart Mercury piece entitled, ”Giddings: Politics over family”.)

Needless to say single/child-free male politicians are never subjected to this line of questioning, nor ever will.

For more eloquent writing on the stupidity of this situation, take a look at Anne Summers piece in the Fairfax media and Helen’s wonderful post over at Cast Iron Balcony.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

childfree couples have a healthier diet

Fascinating UK study finds that childfree couples eat more fruit and veg and have a generally healthier diet than couples with children.

Wonder if an IQ study between those who breed and those who don't will be next?